The Los Angeles Lakers have been trying to work out the best way to use each of the talented players they have on the roster since the start of the 2020-21 campaign.
L.A. made it its offseason priority to prepare the team for a long and exhausting title run. The reigning NBA champions then added to extra pieces in Andre Drummond and Ben McLemore this year. But such a wealth of talent comes at a price: some of the players, like Markieff Morris or Marc Gasol, have had to accept a reduced role or falling out of the rotation completely for a period of time.
In the 108-93 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Montrezl Harrell took Gasol’s place on the sidelines and didn’t get up from the bench for a single minute during the game. Kyle Kuzma showed empathy for his fellow Lakers forward after the clash. “It sucks, at the end of the day,” he said.
“We’re all competitors and we all want to be on the court for 48 minutes. That’s just how you are if you are a competitor. You don’t want to, then I would never want a player on my team like that.”
Kuzma had to deal with a constantly changing role during the Lakers’ title run last season. Speaking from experience, he offered his teammates advice on how to remain in the right frame of mind in such circumstances. “It’s all about sacrifice. That’s something I really learned about last year,” he said.
“I think that’s something I struggled with last year. I was hard on myself and down a little bit, but I had great teammates that stuck with me and I figured it out. Now is not the time to be harping on yourself and if you don’t play you don’t play. Just cheer on your teammate. We’re trying to win championships right now.
“That’s the window that we’re in. It’s at all costs. If you don’t play, you don’t play.”
While it won’t be easy, Kuzma is right that sacrifices will have to be made, specifically in the postseason, if this team is going to repeat as champions.
Kuzma: Seeding ‘doesn’t matter too much’ to Lakers
The two losses to the Mavericks allowed Dallas to get uncomfortably close to the Lakers in the Western Conference standings. They are just 1.5 behind L.A., who still occupy the fifth seed with 12 games left to play in the regular season.
But Kuzma underplayed the importance of seeding for the reigning NBA champions. “No, I think seeding matters for a lot of other teams in the league,” he said. “I don’t think it matters too much for us.
“Obviously, we’re declining. We got to just figure it out. … We got to just keep pushing. Keep figuring it out. Get AD’s legs under him. Get wins.”
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